Taking vitamin D supplements could help to ease the painful symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a new study by UK researchers.
Little is known about why and how IBS develops, although it is known that diet and stress can make symptoms worse, noted the researchers, who also highlighted that it accounted for 10% of GP visits.
“The study provides an insight into the condition and, importantly, a new way to try to manage it”
They added that low vitamin D status had already been associated with the risk of colorectal cancer and has been implicated in inflammatory bowel disease.
The researchers, from Sheffield University, reviewed and integrated all available research on vitamin D and IBS, which included four observational studies and three intervention studies.
All of the observational studies reported that a substantial proportion of the IBS population was vitamin D deficient, regardless of ethnicity. Meanwhile, two intervention studies reported improvement in IBS symptom severity scores and quality of life with vitamin D supplementation.
As a result of their analysis, the researchers said their findings suggested supplements may help to ease symptoms, which can include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.
“The available evidence suggests that low vitamin D status is common among the IBS population and merits assessment and rectification for general health reasons alone,” stated the study authors.
“An inverse correlation between serum vitamin D and IBS symptom severity is suggested and vitamin D interventions may benefit symptoms,” they said in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
However, they highlighted that the available data used in their review did not currently provide “strong, generalisable evidence” and called for more larger trials to “establish a case for therapeutic application of vitamin D in IBS”.
”There is no single known cause and likewise no single known cure”
Lead study author Dr Bernard Corfe said: “The study provides an insight into the condition and, importantly, a new way to try to manage it.
“It is evident from the findings that all people with IBS should have their vitamin D levels tested and a large majority of them would benefit from supplements,” he said.
He added: “IBS is a poorly understood condition which impacts severely on the quality of life of sufferers. There is no single known cause and likewise no single known cure.”